Stansted: Union holds consultative ballot on industrial action for Thomas Cook Airlines cabin crew

THOMAS Cook Airlines cabin crew, who face possible job cuts after the company’s decision to slash its fleet, vote next week on whether to pursue industrial action as staff face the axe.

The union Unite said it would be holding a consultative ballot on industrial action over redundancy terms after month-long talks with management about the proposed jobs cuts, affecting staff at several airports including Stansted, broke down.

The company said it was “disappointed” at the move, and stressed that although the jobs of 498 staff were at risk, the number of job cuts would be “considerably less”.

About 1,300 members of the 1,800 cabin crew workforce are members of Unite, the largest union in the country.

The ballot, to be held within the next week, follows the break-down of talks with the management. Unite says it is unhappy at the company’s refusal to boost the redundancy terms.

The cabin crews fly from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, and Stansted.

Unite said its negotiators had asked the company to put a ‘realistic’ voluntary severance package on the table, but management had refused to enhance its current policy of two weeks per year redundancy pay.

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Unite is seeking a minimum of three weeks per year, plus a lump sum payment of �5,000 for affected crew. Average cabin crew pay is �15,000 a year, the union says.

Unite regional officer Mick Whitley said: “The company was only interested in putting in place the building blocks for voluntary and compulsory redundancies.

“This has left Unite with no other alternative but to suspend the consultation talks and hold a consultative ballot with the Unite membership at Thomas Cook. The ballot will be conducted within the next week to gauge the feeling of our members.

“We are completely against the redundancy terms and any compulsory redundancies purely to make more profit. The group has made �320million this year and is paying out a fortune in bonuses and dividends, as well as sponsoring the Olympics.”

Thomas Cook, which flies long and short haul flights to worldwide holiday destinations, including the Caribbean and the USA, wants to reduce the size of its fleet and do away with the rank of assistant cabin manager.

Thomas Cook Airlines started a 90 day consultation with staff on September 6 following its decision to reduce its UK fleet by six aircraft.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “We’re committed to continuing to consult with our staff and their representatives, and whilst we are very disappointed that Unite have taken this approach so early in consultation, we urge them to continue with the process on behalf of their members to look for opportunities to reduce the number of job losses.”